IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa athletic director Gary Barta is planning for a sold out Kinnick Stadium when the football season kicks off in September. The venue holds 69,250 fans.
Barta pointed out that there are 100 days remaining until the Hawkeyes’ scheduled season kickoff against Sept. 5th at home against Northern Iowa. He acknowledged the outlook could change.
“As of today, we are still planning to open Kinnick up and have as many fans join us as want to join us,” Barta said Thursday during a video press conference. “That’s one of our scenarios and we haven’t closed that scenario down yet. We’re also having to plan for something less than that, whether that’s 75 percent or 50 percent or another percent. But we haven’t at all let go of 100 percent.
“It’s all going to be based on health and safety.”
Here’s the transcript of Barta’s press conference:
BARTA OPENING STATEMENTS: Every day seems like Groundhog Day. You know, we get up and we look at what’s happened today and go through a series of meetings and phone calls and whatever we’re preparing for the day before probably changed since the previous day.
I noted, I think most of you saw this, but I noted it’s still 100 days until our first kick off. You know, put that in context. It’s been 77 days since we were in Indianapolis, and we shut down the Big Ten Basketball Tournament. So while it seems we’ve been in this current state for a lifetime, we still have that much and more until we have to finalize and get ready to kick off. I mostly see that as a positive because if we can continue to move forward and make progress; the closer we get, I think, the more chance we have.
One of the most common questions or the most common topic with lots of questions, are we going to play football? Are we going to play a full season? Are we going to start on time? Are there going to be fans or are there not going to be fans? If anybody tells you they know the answers to all these questions surrounding football, one, they’re probably selling you positivity. And two, they’re mostly guessing and that’s okay. It’s just the theme is nobody really knows what you know when and how and exactly how it’s all gonna unfold.
That being said, there are several things that feel like we’re taking steps forward. When I look at the states are opening up, where there is more access to testing. I think we’re learning more about the treatment and the treatment of those who do get infected seems to be very much improved. We are learning more every day, and we have 100 more days and my guess is we’re going to learn a lot between now and then.
So with all that uncertainty, I and my staff are still planning for several different scenarios. And the scenarios we plan for seem change by the day by the hour by the week. But as of today, we are still planning to open Kinnick up and have as many fans join us as want to join us. That’s one of our scenarios. And we haven’t we haven’t closed that scenario down yet. We’re also having to plan for something less than that, you know, whether it’s 75% or 50%, or something less than 100%. But, but we haven’t at all let go of 100%.
We’re not unrealistic. We’re not expecting that, that we’re going to have sellouts for every game by any stretch. But as of right now, that’s still one of the modes that we’re planning. It’s all going to be based on health and safety. You know, our student athletes, our coaches and our staff, that’ll be working the game or playing the game, we’ll make sure that they’re ready to go from a safety standpoint. And then for our fans, there’s a whole litany of people that that get involved before the athletic director. There’s the CDC, whatever our state laws are dictating. The big 10 has a group that that the commissioner put together. It’s made up of health experts, doctors. They’re working on a playbook on how to bring student athletes back and how to open our venues, whether it’s football or any other venue.
Here’s the way to wrap that all up. We are studying and looking into numerous ways where we can mitigate the risk when our student athletes come back, when our coaches work, our staff works, and when our fans come back to Kinnick, Carver and our other venues. We’re looking for ways we can mitigate the risks of contracting the virus. We’ll communicate the things we’re doing. And we’ll be transparent about the things we’re doing to mitigate.
And then it’s going to come down to individual choice. Fans are going to have to choose. Do I want to go or do I not? If there’s some personal reason, maybe it’s a health reason, maybe it’s just discomfort. Fans, once they know what we’re doing to mitigate, then they’ll make a choice to attend or not attend. And they’ll also make a choice to protect others around them. There’s that great picture. I think most of you, if not all of you have seen from 1918 at the Georgia Tech football game, and they were all wearing masks. I could see people wearing masks throughout the stadium. Maybe everyone would wear a mask. I don’t know yet.
With the University of Iowa planning, there’s a group every day on campus and I sit in on many of those meetings and they’re going through from A to Z identifying mitigation in preparation for bringing students and faculty and staff back on campus in the fall. That’s Plan A to reopen the campus, probably in steps but to reopen the campus and this fall be back having in-person classes as well as some some online. There’s groups looking at the academic experience; the dorms, the dining, the bus system, you know, and I won’t go through the list because it’s about as long as you can possibly get. So, that’s all going on.
It’s important for me to introduce you to that group and what they’re doing because when we knew that the NCAA was going to approve voluntary workouts, which you all know will begin on June 1, three or four weeks ago, we started working on that. And we sat down and we went through that same group, the CDC, state rules and laws and the and the Big Ten advisory group, the infectious disease group, and then we put together a group UIC working with our doctors, and eventually involving, you know, strength coaches and athletic trainers and our main coaches, sport coaches. And so we then brought that plan to the CIMT, the critical incident management team that’s working to reopen campus. And they included us as a pilot project. So there’s athletics that has a pilot project and research. And so we’re working on that.
So, we will bring student athletes back in waves. And we’ll try to learn through the month of June. We’re going to see what we learn as we bring students back and coaches in this scenario. It’s going to be phased. On June 8 is when our football student athletes will begin their voluntary workouts. That’s a key component here. It’s voluntary workouts. So, not all student athletes will come back.
But once the gyms started opening up in our state and across the country, and we got clearance from the NCAA, we know that we can control the environment we create. We can we can control how we create safety within our gyms and our facilities. So football June 8 and then phasing in with that team, and then basketball men’s and women’s on June 15. And then after that phasing in some of our all other fall sports, wrestling and some other sports, so the month of June is really going to be this phase back into bringing some of our students back and getting them ready and learning a lot in the month of June. We’ll learn a lot that will help us in July and August. And each step is going to be helpful.
There’s protocols. Student athletes are going to be tested. They’re going to be screening every day to get in and out of the building. There will be cleaning protocol every time a space is used. There’s going to be maybe one entrance for a building and one exit for a building. Those can be controlled. All of the things that we’re going to do, a long list of things, we’re going to do to mitigate and create a safe environment. We’ll go through this month of June, we’ll phase it in, we’ll be learning as we go. And we’ll see where we end up.
So, that’s sort of the voluntary return, you may have seen, or you probably know that no required team activities can occur until July 1 at least. That’s been put as the next day. And that’ll be watched throughout this month. And, you know, maybe extended maybe approved beginning July 1. So we’ll take a look at that.
Switching over to season ticket holders. We’re preparing to allow as many Hawkeye fans that want to come back the ability to come back. As of yesterday, we’re at about 48,000 tickets, season tickets. That’s a combination of public, faculty, staff and students. We had extended the deadline. May 29 is when season ticket date is ending. And we created more payment plans for our fans if they needed to spread those out. We’ll continue to go through that process.
We are preparing for something less than 100%. If that becomes the approach we have to take, we have a well-understood and well-utilized point system. So, if we have to come in at less than 100%, we’ll use our priority point system. We’ll have tickets available for our students. So that’s how we’ll determine it if we have to go anything lower than 48,000.
We’ll have a plan, but right now, that’s that’s Plan B. Plan A is the ability to have everybody who’s purchased those tickets being able to come. If fans choose not to renew this year, we certainly understand there are going to be those, it might be a financial concern, it might be a health concern, what we’re going to do if we have to interrupt the seating at all in 2020, we’ll go back to 2019 as our starting point and everybody going into 2021 will have had the opportunity to renew those same seats. So hopefully that that makes sense.
Again, we’re going to refer to CDC. We’re going to refer to the Big Ten playbook. We’re going to look to make sure we’re following any state guidance or directives. And then we’re going to prepare the stadium with whatever those director’s directives are. We’re going to tell our fans what we’ve done. Whether it’s, you know, entrance entryways, whether it’s concessions and how we’re going to manage those, and we’ll list all the things we’ve done for protection within the stadium. And then we’ll let fans make that personal choice whether or not they’re going to come.
I know how badly I want football to occur this fall. I know how badly Kirk wants it. I know how badly our student athletes want it. They’re chomping at the bit. And I know our fans desperately want to be able to come back to Kinnick Stadium. So that’s that’s where I’m at.
I have one more thing and then I’ll open it up for questions. I don’t have a lot to update on finances since the last time we visited. I think last time we talked I mentioned that we’re finishing up this fiscal year. June 30th is the end of our current fiscal year. Not a lot has changed. Hiring freeze slash, you know, spending freeze. Plus, just you know, everybody’s fully employed through the end of this fiscal year. We haven’t made any changes there. We’re going to cover any shortfall we anticipate. It will be seven figures, multiple seven figures, but we have reserves prepared to cover that shortfall.
And then we’re we’ve dug in pretty deep into some assumptions for next year. We don’t have final numbers. We know that our revenue will be down even under the best-case scenario. We’re certainly planning for a reduction in revenue. And we’ve been communicating internally with our staff. We’re talking about operating cuts to talking about compensation cuts. I’ve been so grateful and amazed. Our staff has been amazing in just helping us identify how we’re going to put together next year’s budget, knowing that it’s going to be a shared sacrifice. And I know all of you whether it’s your business area, your particular outlets, or everybody at home, everybody’s trying to figure this out, financially going forward.
So we’ll keep communicating with our staff. At some point, when we have enough information to share, definitively, we’ll share that more publicly. And again, we’re preparing for different scenarios, kind of A, B, and C and A is the one that we’re getting pretty close to putting a ribbon on. And then B and C are deeper and those will get even more challenging. But that’s that’s kind of where I’m at. I’ve been talking with ADs in the Big Ten every day. Today, we had another Big Ten AD and football coaches meeting. We have head coaches meetings every week. We have all-staff meeting meetings regularly. We have senior-staff meetings once a week as a full group and then individually every day.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Could you just go a little bit further into next week. How much of Kirk’s staff will be allowed back in that first week and then maybe any general precautionary measures or standard procedures once the player student-athletes start coming in, whether it’s June 8 with football or in another facility, June 15, with men’s women’s basketball?
Gary Barta: The pilot project that was approved by the critical incident management team on campus, we send them the lists of people. It’s actually not necessarily every name. But it’s how many staff members are essential to have football fully operating under this volunteer environment. It’s strength coaches. It’s athletic trainers. It’s the full-time coaches and a few other support people. And then we’ll do the same in the other sports. There are a few people, like myself, a couple of other administrators, who will be in that process so that we can be on campus, especially during this limited time with specific purpose.
So now to the limitations. As I mentioned, there will be a door that you walk in the Hanson Performance or in Carver Hawkeye arena. There will be somebody screening everybody that comes in, making sure they’re on the approved list and then to going through a screening process. Medical staff is still finalizing it, but it will be things like you’ve heard, maybe a temperature scan maybe a question of, you know, how you’re feeling today, if you had any other symptoms, and basically just going through a daily screen, and making sure before you come into the building, that that you’ve gone through that process. Then there will be protocol in terms of if you’re in the hallways or public spaces, what do you what do you have to do? Do you have to wear a mask? That’s very likely.
You’re not going to wear a mask as you’re actually working out. That’s one of the unique differences of a student-athlete versus most of us in social distancing. So, from a training perspective, when you have your mask off, that’s one of the reasons testing is going to be important. And then, once you’re done with your workout, leaving the building through the dedicated exit having a number of student-athletes that can train at one time That’ll be limited.
So, there’s also there’s a long list of things. And again, we’re going to learn from that list. These are voluntary workouts. When we move to the next step of required workouts, we’ll have learned some things and we’ll be even more prepared and more efficient when we get to that point. And that’ll be the same for the staff entering the building or the student-athletes.
Tailgating, this is obviously a vital thing for all these people that buy your tickets. Do you have any idea how you’re going to be handling that this fall? Is it too soon to go on record about that?
GB: The honest answer is I don’t know yet. I expect there will be some modifications. But we’ve been so focused on getting the student athletes back in this volunteer mode. We have talked about it. We have began to identify parking lots and and again, if it’s 100% versus 75% versus 50%, whatever the percentage do expect that not everyone will come to the game. Transportation is a broader topic. We also have to talk about the train and whether or not we’ll be able to put the Hawkeye Express back into production. If we do, we may have to limit the number of people that we put on the train. So we know that’s a question that will be addressed. We’ve already begun regular meetings with people on campus to deal with game day. And like the other categories, we’re preparing for different scenarios. We have not yet put a final touch on how tailored tailgating will be.
I agree with you. I know how important tailgating is. I joke with a lot of the fans as I go through the parking lot. They invite me to join them for their favorite beverage or their favorite food, food of choice. And I always remind them I haven’t tailgated at a football game since I don’t even remember. I look forward to it someday. I know how important it is to experience. I can comfortably say there will be tailgating. I’m not ready to say exactly how that’s going to work.
Do you have a number for how many athletes will be allowed into football facility? Are there coaches in that room at all? Do they have to be virtual? Can you kind of paint the picture of what will be permitted? And then, kind of as an attachment to that, have you heard concerns from football players or families about returning and how have you addressed those?
GB: I don’t know the exact number and it may be that our doctors are still developing the exact number, if it’s going to be square footage or gonna be a hard number. I do know there will be limitations on how many student athletes train at one given time in a particular space. If it ever becomes a hard number or a number per square footage, I can share that with you with you all later.
As it pertains to who can be in the room, it’s voluntary workouts. As part of that, strength coaches and athletic trainers can be in the room for safety reasons and to monitor the safety. The regular sport coaches cannot be a part of voluntary workouts under normal circumstances and can’t be a part of voluntary workouts under these circumstances. So no different from that standpoint. Who can be involved is the same as it has been in the past.
I have not received any direct concerns. Coach Ferentz and I have talked about it. I don’t think Kirk has received any direct concerns. Remember, this phase is voluntary. So if someone did have concerns at this point, they wouldn’t even have to raise them with us. We have had conversations about what happens if a student-athlete or a staff member doesn’t feel comfortable coming back to work and understand there could be an underlying health reason that they’re not able to come back and train or or work, or it could just be a concern that isn’t able to be addressed because remember, as long as the viruses here And until a vaccine is created, there will be risks. No matter what we do, we cannot eliminate the risks. We will work to mitigate it. And then people will have to make that choice.
If we have a student-athlete who chooses not to return, they will still remain in good standing with their team. We will work to mitigate the concerns that they raise. But we would not have a student-athlete during this year, if they felt they couldn’t compete or train because of this COVID-19 virus, they would not lose their status or their scholarship.
Let’s say an athlete does get sick. Is that going to be a point where you do shut things down again? Or do you keep keep things going? What would be in that scenario?
GB: I think everybody in the country, whether it’s from a business perspective, whether it’s from going to a restaurant, certainly opening the campus, and now drilling down into athletics, it’s not a matter of if someone gets a virus, it’s a matter of when. And the answer is if, and please, I’ll present this I hope comes out the right way. If one person were to get sick, and we were to shut down, we might as well not open up.
Let me just explain myself. We expect that there will be students on this campus, there will be staff on this campus who will get the virus. We will have medical plans on the treatment of those students or those faculty or those staff, just like the community has. And we will manage it with a contact tracing, making sure that you know we’re aware of where that person was and then going through a protocol to return. But that’s the way it’s going to be approached. Not if but when someone gets to virus student or staff having a plan in place our hospital.
One death is too many. Our hospital, I believe, at last count, has had seven deaths. I haven’t heard today’s updates, but there hasn’t been a death in over a month or in about a month. So, I think the treatment that we’re able to provide in our community, we’re so fortunate, and the outbreak has not reached a point where, where our hospital…We have thousands of employees who are coming to work every day and they’re doing a great job. So, again, I hope that came out right because your question is a fair one. My answer is we won’t shut down. The minute someone gets sick, but because we anticipate people will get sick, and then it’s just a matter of managing.
I’m wondering as the guys come back, you guys were feeding those guys, too. You had those buffet meals and things like that at the football complex. How are you going to handle the food distribution moving forward?
GB: I didn’t mention that in my protocol. I didn’t cover everything in protocol, but nutrition and food is part of the protocol and just managing it. We also have something called the black card, which is a card that allows student athletes to go to participating venues in town. So that’s one possibility, as well as other protective ways. The days of the buffet are probably limited or gone, at least for now. And serving food or providing nutrition through other means is definitely part of the plan.
You’re talking with your Big Ten colleagues daily, what’s your confidence level that they have in terms of their ability to execute a similar plan and ultimately have a season? Are there any concerns on your part that not all members would be ready for the season from your understanding of those conversations?
GB: If anybody in the Big Ten or anywhere else is telling you they know, they’re either spinning positive or they’re guessing. I would just tell you that the mood is, I can’t speak for every AD, but I can tell you being with them virtually every day, they share the same ups and downs that I do every day. One day, I think like it’s a no-brainer. We’re going to do it. The next day, I’m concerned because I heard something new.
I think everybody is preparing similar to what I’ve described. They’re preparing for football being a full season. They’re preparing for football with fans, and they’re preparing for football with as many fans as want to come and then scaling it back from there. So, I think there’s a good confidence level on May 28 with 100 days left until the first kickoff. Ask me that in another 50 days when we’re 50 days out, and we’ll see if we still have the same answer.
It’s a fair question. Do we anticipate that there could be some universities in the Big Ten that could play and some that couldn’t? That’s one of those areas we’re prepared for. If we have to go that route, we don’t have all the details lined up, but we’ve talked about it. So, again, preparing for many different unknowns and being ready to change on a dime if we have to each day that goes by.
I don’t know if it is 50 days from now or if you’ve discussed with Kevin (Warren) or just among yourselves, when there almost has to be, okay, we’re in or we’re not sure is there? Is there a point where you guys individually will have to make those decisions?
GB: There absolutely will be. And there has not yet been a date, where we’ve said by this day, we have to decide. And so I can’t tell you the day. There will be a day where we have to make a decision. That day is not yet. And I don’t know exactly when that day will be. Because we talk every day, it won’t be difficult between the 14 ADs, the commissioner and the infectious disease group, and then communicating with our coaches. We’ll know when we need to make that decision.
If you have to reduce capacity for the first game similar to what Jamie Pollard just announced, how will you alter seating within the stadium? Will you require a seat in between people or groups? Or will it just be certain parts of the stadium off limits? Have you gotten that far in any kind of discussion?
GB: We’re going to wait until we get some absolute, in our state, here’s what it would have to be, the CDC saying, here’s what it would have to be. You’ve heard the six feet. You’ve heard masks. We have suites and club areas. Those different than the general seating area. We’re having all those conversations. I don’t know how many ideas we’ve looked at. We’ve looked at several ideas. We’re not ready to say which ones we’re looking at. Until we have some focus on a number. If that numbers 75%, 80%, 100%, or 50%, we’ll adjust. We’ll make that decision.
And as I said earlier, we’ll decide who gets in. If we have more people wanting in, then whatever entity limits us letting in, we’ll have our priority point system kick in. The other thing is, you want to be careful that you don’t become too prescriptive, too early, and then have to change it and re-communicate it or have to alter it, because it changes after you announce it.
Your question is fair. I know you’d love to know exactly how we’re going to do. If we knew exactly how we were going to do it, I’d probably share that with you. But we don’t have an absolute plan yet. We’ll come up with a plan once we know how many people can be let it.
I’m wondering how comfortable you feel personally right now about the thought of getting on a plane for six straight weeks and staying in a hotel at the Gaylord where there’s a million people and being confined in a selection creating meeting room with your closest friends for hours upon a time or if you think some changes might need to be made to that process this year?
GB: I personally have taken this very seriously. For the first few months, month and a half, I didn’t leave the house. I went out, maybe one time to get some groceries. My wife has done a lot of that more recently as things have opened up. If I go out, I wear a mask. I don’t go out a lot more than I have to. Recently, I have been on campus because I am part of that that critical incident management group that has been getting together. But when I do, I wear a mask. I’m no closer than six feet from people, etc.
I have not yet been on a plane. I’d have to figure out how long it would take to drive to Dallas. I probably would opt for the plane because getting back and forth. I can imagine I’d wear a mask. I can imagine in our meetings that you know, they may adjust and have more space in between us. But again, remember, we have some planning meetings late this summer that are still potentially going to be in person. We don’t start meeting as part of the committee until November. If it’s 100 days until September 5, it’s a lot more than that until November.
So, generally, I’m uncomfortable taking the right precautions, washing my hands. Our doctors have really made it clear to me that wearing a mask and washing your hands and not touching your mouth is is about 90 some percent of what it takes to avoid the virus. So, I’m pretty comfortable using those precautions. And between now and then, hopefully testing and my goodness, a miracle occurs, and we have a vaccine.
The possibility, as you acknowledged earlier of different teams kind of everybody doing their own thing, how do you pick the four best teams if one team plays 10 games and goes 10-0 and another plays 12 and goes 10-2 or whatever?
We haven’t worked out any specifics, but there’s a list of principles that the board created when the CFP was first put together. Those principles are still going to be guiding the decisions. The goal is to identify the top four teams to play in the semi-finals, and then to rank the teams through the Top 25 after that. So, the methodology in the scenario that you just described would certainly have to change. But the principles would remain the same. There’s 13 of us. We would come together with the great help of staff, and we would put together a method and a process that follows the principles and identifies who that committee believes are the best for the playoff.
This is a very political world and COVID become a bit of a political situation. Have you run into that with your staff? And does having a direct access to the hospital erase a lot of things? Because in my experience with COVID, so far, whenever you have somebody with a medical degree, people listen, and that generally cuts through the BS.
GB: I understand the reference to politics. We’re a world divided. Pick any topic, and you have the far right and far left. I get that. I get the question of medical and doctors. I’m grateful for a lot of things about living in Iowa City, but one of the things I’m very grateful of is the incredible medical support that we have. You all know that I experienced it firsthand. And I was blessed during that process.
What I want you to be a little bit more specific about in your question is the medical question. And the politics specifically because my staff has been great in dealing with this. They hate being at home or at least most of them hate being at home; would rather be in person but a little bit more on the politics compared to the medicine.
When you have these meetings with teams, how intermingled will UIHC be? Will that staff be guiding players? Anybody with doubts, anybody who wants to make a political statement, that kind of thing. I imagine you’ll have medical people talking about being political and making those types of statements.
You hit on the most important thing is we are going to be taking a lot of medical advice. Whether it’s having practice, putting on events, coming to work every day, it will be heavily weighted on medical advice. If we have a staff member or a student athlete who is concerned and it falls in some sort of making a statement, as I mentioned earlier, we’re going to rely on medical advice and we’re going to respect free speech. And yet, we’re going to conduct our business. Maybe it feels like I’m skirting. I’m not afraid to address it. I just don’t know exactly what you’re asking.
I mean, even even the medical community, you have some doctors who believe the only way to address this current pandemic is to stay at home and never leave your house. There are medical professionals who will say that because medically that’s what they believe. The common sense or reality, I don’t know if it’s common sense, but the reality is, this is my belief, I don’t believe we can stay in our homes until a vaccine is discovered or created or put on the market. So, my approach is, let’s listen to the medicine, then let’s match that with risks and risk analysis. And then let’s go out of our homes and and know the risks. And then I will be ready to go on a plane. I will wear a mask and I’ll wash my hands. I understand I could contract he virus during that time. So we’re going to approach it the same way with our with our staff, our coaches and our student athletes.
I was reading something that mentioned that there was no guarantee that 2019 seats would be available in 2021 for season ticket holders that were concerned about attending games this season. But you did mention earlier in the zoom call here about season ticket holders being able to retain their same seats. Could you clarify. If a season ticket holder is concerned about attending a game in 2020, will they still retain the rights to their same seat from 2019 in 2021? Or is it possible that they could lose that seat and have to shift to somewhere else in the stadium?
GB: Every scenario we’re looking at, they would be able to retain their seats. The reality is there will be some level of disruption this year. We don’t know exactly what that will be. Maybe we’ll have a couple of sellouts, but it won’t all be season ticket holders. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I know this. We have loyal season ticket holders. Season ticket holders who renew this year, they’re going to receive the highest priority. If those that take a year off for whatever reason, medical, financial, I feel very comfortable telling you today they will be able to get their seats back. The only scenario I guess would would throw that out is if 100% of the seats sold out this year to season ticket holders. That’s just not going to happen.
So if people take a year off, and they come back in ’21, and they followed all the other processes, paid their tickets on time and their donations, they’re going to be able to get their seats back. We’re going to take care of our season ticket holders, like we have been. We extended the date, we created payment plans, we assured people that if the season is disrupted they’ll get a credit or refund. And we’ve been rewarded.
There was a story today where somebody sent in their donation, and they they sent, I won’t say the name because I didn’t ask permission, but they sent this beautiful letter, and they said they’ve been coming to games with their parents since the 1960s. And they listed some number of games that they’ve been to in a row and they made their donation. This year in the honor of the father, and whether we play the games or not, that donation will stay as an honor to what Hawkeye Football means to them.
So those are the kinds of responses we’re getting. And that kind of loyalty is going to be rewarded. We’re going to get through this year. And it’s going to be different. I don’t know exactly how, but it’ll be different. And hopefully, I’m going to assume ’21 will be back to quote, unquote, a new normal, but a normal. And we’re going to reward all those people who have taken care of us for a long time.
Some of your peers have talked a little bit about maybe housing student-athletes together in groups, at least through this voluntary part of things. To what degree will student-athletes be monitored or be in some sort of a control type thing once they’re outside of the football facility or Carver Hawkeye?
GB: That’s a really good point. One of the things that we know is that let’s say they’re with us for two or three hours in this voluntary mode just about every day. That leaves a whole lot of hours that they won’t be with us. We are not making them come and live with us under direct control, 24-7. I would tell you that most schools that I’ve talked to are not going to go that route.
What we are going to do is what we’ve done in the past and just say, we have expectations of you as student-athletes to represent yourself and to do the right thing. We’re going to take it a step further for our staff and for ourselves. Athletes, they’re going to sign a pledge of expectations as it relates specifically to this virus. And it’s going to just say things like, I understand that the decisions I make outside of our facilities are really important for the safety of my teammates and myself.
Let’s say they all chose to be irresponsible as it relates to the virus, and we had an outbreak and then that shut down their ability, for sure, but maybe if they infect other people from being able to have this opportunity. They love the opportunity. They want to get back so bad. I feel very comfortable that they’re going to do their best to take care of themselves and and it’ll be a little bit on the honor system. But you’ll also get screened every day, so they know the risk if they don’t follow through.
We will have dorms available for the incoming freshmen as they’re able to come back this summer. The dorm system has been great as part of this pilot project. They’re going to create some dorm space for those student-athletes so that they can also come back and be a part of the voluntary workouts.
With the athletes coming back in June, July is usually a month where they’re not around. What is the training schedule between when they come back and the beginning of the season? Are they’re going to be training all the way through to the season?
GB: We had that very discussion this morning, and we don’t have a permanent answer. We certainly anticipate that if if the flow of the summer just keeps getting better and better all the way through June all the way through July. And then all the way through August, we certainly expect there will be breaks inside of that. Remember, these are voluntary workouts. So, student-athletes, if they leave, they may have to go through the whole protocol again, but they certainly can leave the facility and not train all June. But once we get into it, we have we’ve talked about a six-week, an eight-week, a four-week (training session). It just depends on what the situation is when we get into training camp time. If we just keep progressing in a positive way toward a normal quote, unquote, workout schedule, then then we’ll revert to the to the more traditional schedule, my guess is.
You talked about being apprehensive, some days better than others. How much more confident are you now than you were a month ago, two months ago?
GB: The fact that our states are opening up, the fact that that testing is so much more widely available, I sit in on these meetings where I hear about the incredible care at UIHC and the fact that the number of patients were being treated for this virus continues to go down, those are all things that make me feel better today than I did say a month and a half ago. What I can’t predict, and we’ve been doing this for 70 days, I obviously I can’t predict what’s going to happen in the next hundred days. If things keep going at the pace they’re going and they keep getting better and better and better between now and football season, my excitement, enthusiasm will go up accordingly. So it’s better today than it was a month or two ago because many things have improved, and only time will tell over the next hundred days.
You can watch the full Barta Press conference in three parts via the below videos: